Oh, come on. Who could have known?
A sixty-page memorandum addressed to Renee Orr, the chief of the leasing division of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was sent in September 2009 by an environmental investigator, warning of potential disaster in offshore drilling operations and the particular dangers posed by gas hydrates.
It was written as a public comment to the federal government’s proposed rule for oil and gas leasing between 2010 and 2015 on the outer continental shelf, and offers a wide-ranging compilation and analysis, based on meticulously documented scientific, industry and government sources, of many accidents little known to the general public.
It warns of the potential for catastrophic environmental disaster in an offshore accident, highlighting many of the potential dangers that the Deepwater Horizon explosion has now put on display. It also raises concern about the ongoing and unrecognized release of vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere, a gas 20 times more powerful as a warming agent than CO2.
“The primary cause of blowouts, spills and uncontrolled releases of gases from offshore operations is drilling into methane hydrates, or through them into free gas trapped below,” the report warns MMS. It cites much evidence compiled from accident investigations and other documents published by MMS itself, which is the federal agency responsible for assuring safety and environmental protection of offshore drilling operations, as well as leasing rules and royalty payments.